What is the proper price of things? Irritated by the indignant posture of Westerners when their gasoline was cut off, an Arab sheikh remarked: "A barrel of oil costs as much as a hamburger at the Waldorf." He was correct. But the average American would go broke in a month if he ate at the Waldorf. And individual animals of hundreds of endangered species are rarer than diamonds. And rich Americans and sheikhs go hunting the desert gazelle, and Japanese and Soviet ships are killing the last of the whales.
What is more fundamentally true is that world resources have been sold in a reckless market place. Fossil fuel has been abundantly offered as if it would spoil like fresh food. No one has thought of the future generations and needs of poor countries; therefore no one has authoritatively decreed a "world survival" price. This world survival price would long ago have cut back the crazy industrial growth and unlimited machine wars of the past hundred years. It would also have cut back the destruction of the general environment and of the animal species.
If the Great Chairman had convened an assembly of advanced primates in the beginning of the Age of Mankind, he might have spoken as follows:
"Ladies and Gentlemen: I am calling this meeting of homo sapiens to announce my retirement. I shall be available for consultation only upon questions that remain open after you have assumed a new from of existence.
"Meanwhile, I suggest that you organize yourselves to elicit the best from every last soul among you. I point out to you that the basis of your organization must be a single people, a single earth and its store of provisions. Make the best of it. You have nowhere else to go."
Some say that this was in fact the Mandate of T'ien. The question is logically suitable for a future consultation with the Chairman. In any case, it took some thousands of years for humanity to confront the human condition. It did everything wrong apparently. It proceeded parochially, not universally; it acted shortsightedly, not with foresight. Now, with marvelous irony, humanity is about to launch itself upon a New Stone Age. At the rate it is going, it well soon be huddling around the campfire, reviving voodoo, and trying to keep deviant characters from reinventing wheel.
Unless a halt is called to the present course of nations, the world can slump into stupid poverty or explode into the same condition. Slumping will take longer than exploding. But the likelihood is that slumps and explosions will occur in succession. Prompting each other, until humanity achieves an equilibrium suited to its social intelligence, the magical and mythical primitive campfire of the New Stone Age. Any settlement at a higher level than will be considered a blessing.
Thanks to a small war between Arabs and Israelis in 1973, humanity for the first time felt the heavy winds of the post-industrial era. The Arab states, in a paroxysm of anger, shut off part of the oil supply to the world and lifted oil prices to unprecedented levels. Until then, the industrial was doing its best to imitate for itself the great American culture trap which this book is describing. Even the less developed and socialist countries like Russia and East Germany were "Americanizing."
Now every Kleinemensch who coveted a car might see how fragile and temporary is man's disposition upon Earth. Humanity subsists upon a few inches of topsoil provided by the green plants and upon the algae and evaporated waters of the oceans. It warms itself, propels itself, and makes its gadgets with some remaining fossils of prehistoric earth and plant disasters. It breeds prolifically. In its urge to chaotic consumption, it abuses the soil, raids and pollutes the seas, and burns the fossil fuels furiously.
It organizes itself badly for all its tasks, both within society and in the relationships among societies. Its exercises have been impromptu; they were not undertaken with a world vision or with a future vision. Else, we must admit, they would have been done much differently.
The first reactions to the Arab petroleum strategy were significant: no authoritative voice was raised from the cripples countries for a new world order based upon friendship and sharing. With more pride than proof, President Nixon promised the Americans self-sufficiency in energy by 1980. Not only was his statement false, but his position of "every land for itself" was an invitation to world anarchy.
Still the criticism of his view was technical, not broad or moral. American leaders were obviously more interested in "getting the Tiger back into the tank," to paraphrase the EXXON gasoline company slogan, than in going back to the drawing boards of the basic energy and production programs of America and the world.
This is a mark of the nationalistic and perforce imperialistic state of mind. It is preliminary to plunging the world deeper into economic, psychological, and military warfare.
After he had returned from traveling to the four corners of the world, Mo Tzu was asked by a disciple: "What would you say is the most urgent enterprise?" Mo Tzu replied : "Upon entering a country one should locate the need and work on that ... If the country is engaged in conquest and oppression, teach them with Universal Love and Condemnation of Offensive War."
"Pride goeth before destruction," says the biblical proverb. "If the ruler is boastful," said Han Fei Tzu about 2, 300 years ago, "but never regretful, makes much of himself despite the disorder prevailing in his country, and insults the neighboring enemies without estimating the resources within the boundaries, then ruin is possible." Such is megalomania, the disease of heads swollen with pride.
All military intelligence experts grant that China has the nuclear bomb. They say China can deliver the Bomb -- north to the Soviets, east to the Americans. They are reassuring, these experts. They say that China has only a few intercontinental nuclear ballistic missiles. The Soviets have many. The Americans have many. But America has to turn some of its missiles toward China. So do the Soviets. So many more are needed.
No question about it: the Chinese people, nearly some 800 million in number, can be exterminated. As for the Soviets the Americans can exterminate them, too. And the Soviets can exterminate the Americans. And the Chinese can kill only 10 million Americans, or is it 20 million, or 39, 999, 999? Of course, in the confusion, other peoples too will die by the millions. And if the U. S. A., in its pride, is provoked by China in its pride, or vice versa, then much of the world will be destroyed.
Ah, what fun these nuclear war games bring! If you do not know about them, or pay no attention to them, you are foolish. If you watch them closely, you are either proud or scared. if you are proud, you are also foolish, because you invite your destruction along with everyone else's. If you are scared, you are miserable, and, being miserable, you will soon find it more comfortable to pay no attention to them, and therefore will become foolish.
In watching the megalomania of these games, I have come to the conclusion that China is in a superior position in the nuclear arms competition because of its weakness. China can control its megalomania before it builds itself into the total economy and bureaucracy too deeply. China has probably enough nuclear arms to prevent any nuclear attack by the soviet Union or the United States. Neither country will launch a nuclear attack upon China, unless those men to whom are entrusted the launching of nuclear missiles lose their reason. For neither any Soviet leaders nor any American leaders would wish to destroy the Chinese people under any circumstances if as a result 20 million Russians and some Russian cities, say, or 20 million Americans and their cities, say, were to be destroyed at the same time.
Since it may have greater alternative needs to begin with, China is probably using up as great a proportion of its scarce resources in the production of useless weapons as the two other countries. Recalling the arrogant tones used by Chinese militarists whenever some new achievement in atomic weapons is mentioned, I conclude that the Chinese government would like to play the same game if it could. That is unfortunate. Such pride can only be self-destructive. The nuclear disadvantage of the Chinese should be exalted and mentioned as a deliberate policy.
If the Soviets and American leaders could escape from the trap of their competition, they would be driven by clear reasoning to adopt the same policy, and would, inconsequence, build no more nuclear weapons and let their present supply waste until they, too, were in a position to deter an enemy by causing unacceptable damage -- and no more.
Let me present the American situation, so that you can use it to criticize Chinese policy.
As matters stand, even if the Soviet Union strikes first, the United States can destroy by its atomic weapons most of the Soviet people and two thirds of Soviet industry. In addition, an immense radioactive fallout would kill and wound people, crops, and animals by chemical means in the soviet Union and other parts of the world.
The Soviet union can do the same to the U. S. A. Therefore, no sane American would launch a surprise or a preventive attack upon the U. S. S. R.
Indeed, it would be foolish and self-destructive for either the U.S.A. or U.S.S.R. even to retaliate if it were attacked by the other. For of what practical or moral value is it to kill and destroy a civilization, even if its leaders went berserk and launched an attack? As you are about to die--that is, in the ten minutes or so before you die--you will not even know that you will die and you will certainly not know whether the Russian people (or the American people) will die too. Only a few military men will even know that a retaliation was discharged. So why attempt to destroy another great people? It was not they, after all, who launched the attack.
This simple reasoning should be enough to cause the Americans and the Soviets to stop producing more nuclear weapons, even without a common agreement, Still they go on. Large interests of the military and bureaucracy, abetted by thoughtless chauvinists, give a momentum to the nuclear arms race that cannot be stopped.
The situation has become so absurd that the United States, even while begging the Russians to slow down the overproduction of atomic weapons, has been shipping millions of bushels of wheat to the Soviet Union to keep the Russian people healthy and enable the Russian government to concentrate upon the production of more and more 'overkill" in atomic weapons. This is one of the contradictions of the megalomania.
If the Chinese leadership takes advantage of its present armaments before its own militaristic pressures grow too great, it might be able to do what the U.S.S.R. and U.S.A., who are prisoners of their militaristic momentum, cannot do. China can assure itself of the "rational deterrent" and let the other nations fall victim to their own pride and mania.
There is little time remaining for the world to exercise the eight goods against the eight bads. In 1971, I delivered a lecture on the impending world crisis at New York University. It was called "Where Do We Go from Here?" The message of that paper, repeated here, will let you complete the present lecture, because all that it said would begin has since begun.
Behind a wall of bulletins prefiguring world economic collapse, the future is forming. Its apparent vagueness does not come from our ignorance of economic trends; we know about the disastrous course that poverty, population, and production are taking. The great mystery is political. What power, what organization will be conferred upon this emerging future? What politics, dominating the next generation, will dominate the subsequent millennium?
Earth is now relentlessly gripped by economic and social forces that are bound to shake it to death.
(1) Industrial and agricultural production are increasing wildly, without reference to the needs of the people. America's Gross National Product is as much as the whole world's, but Americans are already suffering from a chaos of malorganized production.
(2) The world's population is multiplying beyond the capacities of production growth and even beyond the capacities of a vastly improved and redirected production. Eight billion people are forecast for the year 2000, twice the present number. Famine and near famine are already epidemic in certain areas.
(3) The land and mineral resources of the world are being exhausted at an increasing rate. If the Chinese, or any quarter of the world's people, rose to the U.S.A. consumption level, all of the world's resources would be immediately burned up.
(4) The world of nature and the cities of man are, with all of these, being devastated, polluted, and crowded. Air, land, and water throughout the globe are taking in and relaying to man and nature radioactivity, heavy metals, and other poisons in alarming quantities.
Every person can glimpse these happenings from the window of his apartment or the door of his shack. What everyone cannot know, unless he is helped by the statisticians, is that his personal experience is universal and true, and that the changes he is experiencing, projected into the future, proclaim a crisis--a shattering series of disasters-before another human generation has lived out its time on Earth.
The one and only force that can counteract the array of destructive forces and arrange tolerable and progressive equilibrium for the future is absent from the calculations--because it is absent in fact!-and that is political revolution. Only a political movement of global dimensions can bring about large scale social changes that are needed within a generation.
If this constructive political revolution does not come about, we do not get rid of politics. On the contrary, a politics will come to drive the world like a beast. It will brush aside the inane party politics of front pages of newspapers, and impose a new politics of reactionary explosions, contractions, and more explosions.
Examine the natural regions of the world. They are not so many; they are ten in number. See how they will behave and how they fare as the climax approaches.
Arabic Islam is a sacrificial victim. Its oil will be the first great robbery. Its weaker governments, so vociferous and demanding today, will be squelched as insects are, as soon as the oil crisis becomes sharply clear to the masters of America, Western Europe, and the Soviet Union. The stronger governments will scuttle for safety in the shadows of giant patrons. So goes Islam.
Turn to black Africa. In return for ravaging the apartheidists of South Africa, who richly deserve their fate, the Africans will give themselves to the new super-imperialists, Russia probably, moving in from Indian Ocean bases, with Indian help, or an American-West European alliance perhaps. Riches out, trinkets in.
Look to Japan. Its mad growth can only end in Chinese hands, for, as resources become scarce, new markets negligible, and competition fierce, an East Asian cooperative sphere will emerge and Japan must make its peace with China. But at what sacrifice? Politically, culturally, economically, militarily, Japan will become the industrial slave of China and service its operations throughout Asia.
And where will India turn? There is nowhere to go. Japan-China will fight her for the Malay world, in itself a magnificently endowed region but as pathetically inept for survival as black Africa. It will be denied to India. India's masses will wait another eternity for resurrection.
Latin America as well. The low point of Yankee intervention will be reached in a few years and the rebound from there will exceed by every indicator the imperialism of history. Helpless, divided, rich in materials and land, burgeoning with poor and hopeless birthing, the Latin American countries will become the severely suppressed colonies of the U.S.A.
In the event of a climactic struggle for resources, for Lebensraum in every bestial sense of that term, the United States' constitutional and economic order is likely to be reduced most speedily. For the U.S.A. is the most modern and world-connected nation, the most consumer-oriented, the most volatile psychologically. It can collapse more quickly and resoundingly than India, whose mass will simply sink deeper into its historical depression. The U.S.A. will, therefore, despite its present isolationist drift, be the first state to act hyper-imperialistically. Logically, also, a positive movement to regenerate the world order will find its most active support in America.
But the Soviet Union is better conditioned to survive the initial stages of the world crisis, apart from the possibility of a nuclear missile exchange. The Soviet population is less drugged by heavy consumption; its economic and state machinery is less complicated; the natural resources under its direct control are more ample; and the central position of its land mass, astraddle three continents, makes the movements of its conventional armed forces and their auxiliaries less costly and complicated. These advantages convey an additional propaganda benefit: when the U.S.A. takes an imperialistic initiative, the Soviet imperialist response dons the guise of defense of subject peoples and of self-defense.
We see, in the end, a struggle of the hyper-imperialist powers for survival. Perhaps the Soviet Union, Euro-America, and Sino-Japan may persist. Most likely, no chance will recur for peace and planning, and the world will emerge from this period of hyper-imperialism immensely poor, devastated, despairing, and disintegrated.
Of the three formulas of the future, hyper-imperialism is the most likely. Man, unless forced to do otherwise, thinks in shorter futures than reality demands. The mechanisms for the sequence--chauvinism; fear; armaments; aggression; and amnesia of horrendous mass injustices--have been historically readied for use in man's mind and technology.
However, reality is as implacable as obsession. The costs of hyper-imperial conflict will boomerang against any victor so rapidly that the selfish gains will be dissipated before they can be enjoyed. The inevitable aggressions will drain natural resources. They will divert consumption to wastes that stretch far beyond the misdirected and blundering alternative course of the present. They will bring inconceivable hardships to the victors and vanquished alike. They will pollute the air, the sea, and the land. Far from avoiding either world or national collapse, the imperialist course can only precipitate it. Of the many groups who believe that they will survive as happy enclaves, a small fraction will succeed.
Widespread famines will promote dislocations of population. Continual shortages of raw materials will incite interventions that will become sheer marauding. Runaway inflations will reduce large social strata, such as the small enterpriser, salaried workers, and the elderly, to ruin. Communications within and among nations will disintegrate. Transportation will be scarce and expensive. The hyper-imperialists, in their heyday and in their decline, will quarantine the poor of the world. Over all will hover a cloud of guilt and despair that may take centuries to dissipate.
Certain qualities of this collapse would be largely replicated if the present course of the world continues and if, from mutual fear, the large powers manage to evade all-consuming conflicts. Instead of the hyper-imperialist formula of conflict and collapse, the conservative formula of decline and collapse would occur. For if the present politics of the world are taken as a constant factor, if political measures are not taken within the next two decades to redirect radically the trends of population, pollution, production, energetics, and land and resources use, one or more of these forces, colliding with one or more others, will bring the old world order into a climactic and profound collapse.
Once in precipitous decline, nothing can preserve the world order as it is known today. The political forces engendered in the social and economic collapse are most likely to create a kind of feudal system. The requirements for feudalism are a breakdown of sophisticated far-reaching economic systems and a weakness of centralizing force. Then small units of humans, disconnected by failures of central authority and technology, maintain themselves by survival economics and marauding.
Depending upon the extent of the economic and cultural breakdown, the feudal system provides the possibility of differing life-styles. The feudal societies would typically possess elements of a ruling class, which, putting aside democratic claims, would carry on at a mediocre cultural and economic level; their unconcern for their impoverished populations would have to be ideologically rationalized. It is possible but unlikely that these societies would be held together by rich streams of informal communications and a world outlook. A composition of nations would emerge that would more resemble--more closely--the Malayan chiefdoms before European imperialism, or early medieval Europe, or the nineteenth-century Caribbean or Chinese warlordism, or the medieval Slavic world. If such ages tempt the prosperous classes today, it only goes to prove how fantastic are their calculations of survival and how epidemic and degenerative is the neo-poverty of the age.